The British Broadcasting Channel (BBC) has produced some of the most popular television, television films, and even feature-length films in the United Kingdom and beyond, with admirers in the United States. With multiple networks and distinct forms of entertainment for each, BBC is renowned in England for its reality television programs and fantastic science fiction productions.
If there is one thing the United Kingdom enjoys, it is BBC drama series. The BBC has dominated British television, leaving little space for other companies to shine, and not just Brits enjoy their programs.
Here is a summary of the most popular BBC television series of all time.
1. Peaky Blinders
This program likely needs no introduction. Peaky Blinders not only dominated the United Kingdom, but also Europe and the United States, with the Shelby family fighting, drinking, and gambling their way through a criminal enterprise in the Birmingham slums.
Cillian Murphy is the iconic crime boss Thomas Shelby, a moody chain-smoking war veteran we cannot help but revere. Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, Joe Cole, and Finn Cole join Tom Hardy as the memorable Jewish criminal Alfie to form the rest of the family.
Peaky Blinders is a BBC masterpiece in every respect, including the script, cinematography, and acting. The result is that the audience becomes invested in the harshness of Shelby’s world and its antiheroic characters.
2. Sherlock Holmes
Martin Freeman certainly enjoys starring in acclaimed BBC dramas, and in Sherlock, he co-stars with another iconic British actor: the versatile Benedict Cumberbatch.
Cumberbatch had appeared in a number of films prior to Sherlock, but this was the film that catapulted him to stardom, garnering him roles such as Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
However, Sherlock remains his most renowned role, and we will never forget how he brought the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, to life.
Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his sidekick John Watson (Martin Freeman) work together to solve intricate crimes in modern-day London while dealing with their love-hate relationship.
Sherlock’s greatest challenge, despite his quick-witted deductions and obsessive need for work, is people: how to communicate with them, work with them, and even adore them.
Who could have predicted that this BBC miniseries would be the best Sherlock Holmes adaptation on television?
3. Line of Duty
Line of Duty has been a longtime darling among British television viewers. With the release of its sixth season last year, it became the nation’s most-watched crime series of the century, and its recent finale broke records.
Season 1 begins with a detective sergeant being transferred to an anti-corruption unit—corruption that runs deep in the core of the force. Uncovering this malfeasance is the driving force behind all six seasons.
Line of Duty has an impressive cast: Vicky McClure, Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar, Kelly Macdonald, Stephen Graham, Keeley Hawes, Thandiwe Newton, Lennie James, etc.
The inventory of talent is extensive and overwhelmingly British. Put your feet up, brew some tea, and settle in for some excellent crime television.
4. Only Fools and Horses
It would be inexcusable not to include Only Fools and Horses on this list, as it has been voted one of the finest British comedies. John Sullivan’s Only Fools and Horses follows the Trotter brothers as they endeavor to become wealthy through any shady scheme imaginable.
For a live-action sitcom, the 22-year run of Only Fools and Horses was remarkable. There were memorable characters throughout the cast, not just the leads, and there were so many classic episodes that it would be difficult to enumerate them all. “The Russians Are Coming,” “To Hull and Back,” “The Jolly Boys’ Outing,” “Mother Nature’s Son,” and “Time in Our Hands” were personal favorites. In lengthy episodes, the Trotters traveled to Amsterdam, Miami, and Margate.
Only Fools and Horses was a program capable of self-reinvention. Sometimes it was for creative reasons, such as when Raquel and Cassandra were introduced, and sometimes it was out of necessity, such as when Lennard Pearce died in the midst of a season. The program was willing to explore dramatic subject matter, such as when Cassandra miscarried. “Time on Our Hands” retains the record for the episode of a British sitcom with the largest audience.
David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst reprised their roles in 2014 for a Sport Relief Special with David Beckham, as the program was so popular. The program spawned two spin-offs and a stage musical: The Green Green Grass and Rock and Chips.
Eastenders is one of the most popular British soap operas. Eastenders and Coronation Street are competing for the top position among serial operas. EastEnders debuted in 1985 and has since become a staple of British television. On Christmas day in 1986, over 30 million people watched the program.
The Mitchell family, Dirty Den, Dot Cotton, and the Slaters are some of the most recognizable characters from EastEnders. It has also produced notable moments on British television, such as Dirty Den serving his wife with divorce papers, Kat Slater disclosing to Zoe that she was her biological mother, and the Old Vic learning that Phil Mitchell and Sharon Watts were having an affair.
Eastenders has addressed significant issues such as domestic violence, sexual exploitation, and the HIV pandemic. But it also led to controversy, such as when Janine took drugs, Tanya attempted to bury her husband alive, and the 1997 Ireland episodes derided the entire nation of Ireland.
John Luther is a brilliant homicide detective who must prosecute criminals and use his brilliant intellect to solve murders. The cases frequently involve serial murderers, and John Luther’s relationship with a certain serial killer named Morgan is somewhat complicated. In Luther, Idris Elba plays the title character, who takes on complex and high-stakes cases for the greater good.
Hulu and Roku streaming, Between 2010 and 2019, Luther ran for five seasons and was very successful. Luther has a more serious tone than the other options on this list, so it is undoubtedly intended for mature audiences.
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7. Doctor Who
An eccentric in a fascinating coat emerges from a police cage to once more save the planet. Is there a more iconic science fiction image? The Gallifreyan rogue’s enduring popularity is a testament to the Doctor’s mastery of space, time, and mass-market television, as Doctor Who is one of the earliest series on this list. This has been the case whether the character was portrayed by William Hartnell from 1963 to 1966, by the soon-to-depart Jodie Whitaker, or (as I suspect) by her successor, Ncuti Gatwa. The iconic theme song by Delia Derbyshire, which invented synth-pop a decade before Kraftwerk, earns bonus points.
8. Life on Earth
David Attenborough’s natural history narration has become so recognizable that it is impossible to watch footage of a wildebeest fleeing lions or primates grooming each other without imagining your own Attenborough-style voiceover. From Planet Earth to Blue Planet, he has accumulated decades of zoological zingers. Even though he began his career as a wildlife broadcaster in the 1950s with Zoo Quest, it wasn’t until 1979 with Life on Earth that Attenborough and the BBC Natural History Unit invented the genre of epic wildlife television.
9. The Office
Ricky Gervais has become a figure that is divisive and even objectionable. But The Office was the pinnacle of cringe comedy, and Gervais (along with Stephen Merchant) created one of the finest TV characters of all time in David Brent – a figure so ridiculous and yet sympathetic that it was difficult not to consider him a real person. In addition, there was the Tim/Dawn romance, which disclosed that beneath the cruel laughter, Gervais was a huge softie.
Here comes a mythological motif! Merlin is the story of the youthful wizard Merlin (Colin Morgan) and King Arthur (Bradley James) from the land of Camelot. Merlin is a young Prince Arthur’s retainer, and as the two grow closer, Merlin must conceal the fact that he is a powerful sorcerer in order to survive. The two have adventures, defeat enemies, and work together to halt the evil Morgana until Arthur attains his destiny as king.
Merlin aired from 2008 to 2012 and developed a cult following after it concluded. Merlin is ideal for fans seeking a storybook adventure series with a twist, humorous dialogue, and even some queer-coded characters.
It is impossible to condense the century-long output of the corporation into a few paragraphs. BBC has compiled some of the most iconic programs from the past ten years, ranging from drama and documentary to comedy, arts, music, and science fiction. Each is iconic in its own right. Together, they paint a picture of a time, a nation, and a belief in the power of broadcasting for good in the world.
In recent years, the rest of the world has caught on to the brilliance of BBC television, with viewers from all over the world, including America, eager to devour the United Kingdom’s distinctive programming.
Who doesn’t enjoy viewing crime dramas and murder mysteries with no commercial breaks? All with that unique British flavor that distinguishes them from everything else?